The 10 Best Things to See and Do in Aveiro, Portugal
Aveiro's canals | © LuisPinheiro1945 / Pixabay
Colorfully unique and a day trip away from Porto, Aveiro is a favorite getaway destination for Portuguese locals. Situated near the coast, the nearby beaches attract crowds in the summer but the heritage and vibrant culture continue attracting visitors outside of prime vacation season. Nicknamed the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is characterized by a maze of canals filled with brightly colored boats and it is easily one of the country’s romantic destinations.
Explore the Art Nouveau scene.
Along the main canal in downtown Aveiro is a series of buildings with façades inspired by the romantic Art Nouveau period that is responsible for the city’s reputation as an open-air Art Nouveau museum. The bright colors mixed with fluid and curved lines and wrought-iron accents make these architectural treasures stand out, so visitors shouldn’t have problems designing self-guided tours, although guided tours are also available. Don’t miss the Art Nouveau museum (Museu de Arte Nova) and on-site Tea House (Casa de Chá), a special local treat.
Museu de Arte Nova and Casa de Chá: R. Dr. Barbosa de Magalhães 10, Aveiro, Portugal, +351 234 406 300
There’s no doubt that a highlight of visiting Aveiro is a ride on the gondola-like boats called moliceiros. Traditionally used for gathering seaweed that was used as a local fertilizer, they are larger than their Italian counterparts and today are available year-round to entertain visitors. Not only is scheduling a moliceiro ride an iconic activity, but it’s also a budget-friendly one that costs less than 10€ per person (normally around €7) and can be booked on the spot.
The front of a beautifully-painted Moliceiro | © François Philipp / Wikimedia Commons
Although Aveiro is known as a summertime destination, the city is not actually located on the coast, and the beaches are approximately ten kilometers away. The two beach “towns” are called Barra and Costa Nova, the latter slightly further away along the peninsula. They are easy to reach by public transportation, however, and the daily bus route keeps the traffic flowing into and out of this sandy stretch. Not only are they excellent spots to enjoy sunbathing and water sports, but the restaurants are known for serving fresh catches and traditional local dishes.
Both Barra and Costa Nova are worth visiting, but the latter may be a little extra special due to the rainbow-striped fisherman cottages in the “downtown” area. Reminiscent of dollhouses, these beautifully charming buildings were once used to store fishing gear, but some are now used as accommodations. Visitors are commonly seen snapping photos of (and with) these unique buildings.
Costa Nova’s striped houses | © Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.net / Wikimedia Commons
Visit the fish market at peak time.
There’s nothing quite like walking through a Portuguese fish market (Mercado do Peixe) at the peak hours (usually early in the morning). The scents, sounds, and sights may be slightly overwhelming, but they are as real as it gets and the fish market in Aveiro is only different in the sense that it also offers a restaurant on-site. Dating back to the 18th century, the market was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century and serves as a place to buy and eat locally caught fresh fish (the restaurant is on the second floor and takes in views of the canals).
The fish market in Costa Nova (just around the corner from the Costa Nova Hotel) is also worth visiting.
Mercado do Peixe / restaurant: Largo da Praça do Peixe 1, 3800-243 Aveiro, Portugal, +351 234 351 303
Mercado do Peixe da Costa Nova: Av. José Estevão 236, 3830-455 Gafanha da Encarnação, Portugal
Try ovos moles.
Anyone looking for a souvenir to bring back home should consider a box of ovos moles, a local sweet made with sugar and eggs. Sweet and creamy, they come in different shapes and sizes. Although they are sold all over the city, the Ovos Moles de Aveiro pastry shop is undoubtedly among the best spots to buy them.
Ovos Moles de Aveiro: R. Dom Jorge de Lencastre 37, 3800-141 Aveiro, Portugal, +351 234 422 323
Visit the Sé Cathedral.
Portugal’s religious heritage is a stunning part of the culture, and the Aveiro Cathedral (Sé Cathedral) is, therefore, a top landmark in the city. Originally built in the 15th century, it was a local Dominican convent and only one wall of the original church remains today. Due to renovations and restorations over the centuries, the architecture reflects different styles including Baroque and Gothic.
3810-082 Aveiro, Portugal +351 234 422 182
Visit the Aveiro Museum.
Across the street from the Sé Cathedral is the Aveiro Museum, a beautiful religious museum that details the life of a Portuguese princess. Also built in the 15th century, the building was historically the Convent of Jesus of the Dominican Order where Princess Joanna lived during most of her life. One of the first things to see upon entering the museum is the Princess’s beautifully detailed marble tomb, but it also contains a religious collection including (but not limited to) paintings, sculptures, and ancient furniture. There is also an ornately detailed chapel and central courtyard where the convent’s nuns spent time praying.
Av. Santa Joana 8, 3810-064 Aveiro, Portugal, +351 234 423 297
Princess Joanna’s tomb | © Nina Santos
No matter where visitors go in Portugal, sampling the local cuisine is among the top activities and on the coast it is heavily characterized by fish and seafood. One local favorite in Aveiro is feijoada de búzios, a comforting bean stew filled with sea snails similar to “whelk” in English-speaking countries. Other local favorites are arroz de marisco (seafood rice) and a number of eel-based recipes like caldeirada de enguias (eel stew).
Buzios, or whelk, is the star in the local bean stew | © jackmac34 / Pixabay
Visit the Natural Reserve of São Jacinto Dunes.
Nature enthusiasts will enjoy walking along the seven-kilometer trail around the Natural Reserve of São Jacinto Dunes, a wetland system that’s perfect for bird-watching. It takes some effort to reach, however, and the two main ways are a ferry ride from the Barra beach, arriving in the south, and driving around the canals and arriving in the north.
Nature Reserve, São Jacinto, Portugal